Don’t go into Idle Waters after dark, for they are surely cursed. It was something Tempest Densmore heard her father tell her as a young girl, a story of four rivers glee. And so, in part the story began, and as such the foulest, quickest of the Rivers joined together at a fork to complain to the sea— “why is it that when we flow into your tides so potable and sweet, you work us to such a change, and make us so salty and unfit to drink?”
Her father’s story of Aesop would always end with threats from both sailors and students alike wagering to drink the sea like empty barrels of weeks-old wine. It may sound impossible, incredulous even but why not, we live in the land of devastation and loss where free men chose to wage war over land and life for such trivial non-sense as the tides and the sea. Tempest Densmore knew that best of all. It wasn’t currents or idle hands that brought her here. For deep in the sunken depths of the sullen sinister waters lie the mottled wreckage of the Crimson Heart—a ghastly, familiar sight.
Tempest Densmore hadn’t laid eyes on the ship in years, and if her memory served her correct, the sun would be setting soon and they would need to hurry towards the shore. The waters weren’t safe after dark, in fact, the waters were cursed. Yes, cursed—or at least that’s what she’d been told.
They’d been warned, a parting gift the Captain’s mate had whispered as he pushed them off the edge of the splintering planks, but it was of no use. Tempest knew better. She knew where they were on the maps—a formidable place, The Dredge’s of Knotting Lake Canals—a maze of creeping lakes that snaked their ways along inlets and islands alike. A drowning, beckoning abyss was hiding amongst spidering waterfalls and palm-fronds, lurking just beneath the surface ready to pounce on unsuspecting waders just like them.
A place that didn't wait til sundown for the watery beast to manifest.
“Peaceful Passing my ass,” Tempest spewed, spitting a mouthful of saltwater as she clung to drifting pieces of wood that floated by unsure if her eyes burned more so from tears of frustration or the salt. She couldn’t believe she was here once again, this time without refuge.
“Good thing about these waters is they are quite buoyant,” Abigail Flemming called out, her dress billowing out around her like a sail as the wind gusts picked up the top pieces and carried her along the current. She’d seemed to have not a care in the world.
“Not a good thing if you know much about these waters, we don’t want to be anywhere near this side of the wood,” Ravyn Krauss began, knocking on a spare piece of driftwood— indicating they should be on the topside of a boat deck— “besides, isn’t this your fault? If you hadn’t mentioned a curse we wouldn’t have been cast off any ship and we surely wouldn't be about to die...”
“It’s not like I said the name…”
“Don’t say another word,” Tempest shouted, practically drowning herself as she jumped over to Abigail’s ballooning dress, deflating it in the process as it threatened to sink both of them back under the buoyant waters— “You don’t need to say the curse’s name, no names…drowning will be the least of our worries then…wait, speaking of…where’s Leah?”
The three girls stirred about the calm waters, shouting Leah’s name in panic but she was gone. It was a much different sight than that of what Tempest recalled from two decades before. Leah Aurora had been Tempests closest friend since birth. She’d been with her that fateful morning two decades before, except this time there would be no ship passing to save them from the burning inferno. No canoe coming to swoop them out of the bobbing waves with hooked paddles for them to leech onto.
They were all alone.
A feeling of dread consumed Tempest, carving into the pit of her stomach. Leah was nowhere to be seen. Maybe the stories were true, or maybe the river had consumed the rest of the nearby townsfolk and the monster wasn't hungry; Tempest could only hope.
The women heard nothing but the churn of waves slapping against the shoreline and the chirping of crickets as they clutched tightly to each other in panic. Tempest shuddered to think of what lie ahead. What monsters lurked in the murky sands of the rivers bed. Maybe the Captain was right.
“We have to swim to the shallows, and quickly. Maybe Leah made it there before us.”
Tempest couldn’t explain it but she knew this time would be different, it was the same feeling that had taken her father all those years before. Somehow she knew Leah was already dead.
But before Tempest could move something cold and clammy brushed against her bare skin. The salty sea had remained the same; unkind and unforgiving—just as the stories had said. She might have gotten lucky once before but luck never struck twice in the same place, and besides, these waters were cursed…or so she’d been told.
She reminded herself over and over and over again, lest she forget. Maybe rivers do actually curse the sea. Maybe rivers do consume all who lie in their wake, savagely ravaging and decimating all who fall pitifully into their shallows. Irregardless of the depths it’s swallow or be swallowed.
Tempest held her breath as her blood curdled and sang with terror and she felt weighted by the buoyant waves. A gilded crown of seaweed covered pearls capped above the white crested waves; a set of familiar cerulean eyes bore into her. The eyes of her friend Leah Aurora. Tranquility set over, stilling Tempest's mind as the alluring voice called like a siren.
"You have a choice to make, my dearest, sweet Tempest, what will it be? Will you swim towards death at the shore or sink like a rock with me? You will not get both by staying free. To earn your feet you must let go, chose to live with me...forever...forever..."
Tempest looked about, Ravyn and Abigail were nowhere to be seen.
"They've already made their choices my dear, so what will it be?"
Moral of the story: Life is about choices. You can float through life or you can fight. What will you chose?
About the Creator
Writing my escape, my future…if you like what you read—leave a comment, an encouraging tip, or a heart—I’m always looking to improve, let me know if there is anything I can do better.
& above all—thank you for your time